Table of Contents Hide
- Why Do Veterans Pursue College Degrees?
- Challenges Veterans Face in Paying for College
- Main Sources of Scholarships for Veterans
- What Are Scholarships for Veterans Based On?
- Top Scholarships for Veterans
- How to Find Scholarships for Veterans
- How to Improve Your Scholarship Application
- Accepting a Scholarship: Next Steps
- Take Advantage of Scholarship Opportunities
- Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for Veterans
Transitioning from military service to civilian life can be challenging for veterans. Pursuing higher education is one pathway many veterans take to establish new careers, but the costs of college can be prohibitive. Scholarships aimed at military veterans help make education more accessible by providing financial assistance and there are diverse Scholarships for Military Veterans. This guide covers different scholarship opportunities available to veterans and tips for applying.
Why Do Veterans Pursue College Degrees?
There are approximately 19 million military veterans in the United States. Many of them attend college after completing their service. Here are some of the main reasons veterans seek degrees:
- Gain skills for a civilian career: The military provides extensive technical and leadership training. However, these skills don’t always directly translate to high-demand jobs in the private sector. A college degree shows employers that veterans have versatile, transferable skills.
- Enter a new field: Veterans may want to switch careers entirely rather than continue in the field they worked in while serving. A degree allows them to gain qualifications in a new industry.
- Finish an interrupted education: Some veterans start college before enlisting but pause their studies to serve. Scholarships help them complete their degrees.
- Qualify for advancement: Veterans who want to become officers must have bachelor’s degrees. Scholarships make earning these required degrees more feasible.
- Enhance prospects after an injury: Veterans who suffered injuries may require additional education to transition to civilian jobs they are physically capable of doing.
No matter their reasons for attending college, scholarships help veterans overcome the financial obstacles.
Challenges Veterans Face in Paying for College
Between books, tuition, fees, and living expenses, the costs of higher education add up. Veterans face particular challenges paying these costs compared to civilian students:
- Loss of steady income: In the military, veterans drew regular paychecks. As students, they lose this income source.
- Lack of employment: Newly discharged veterans may need time to find civilian jobs, so they cannot rely on employment wages to pay for school.
- Exhaustion of GI Bill benefits: The GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits but veterans may need additional semesters to complete degrees.
- Insufficient GI Bill stipends: The monthly living stipends from the GI Bill often don’t cover all living costs, especially for veterans with families.
- High tuition at private institutions: Veterans may want to attend specific private colleges with limited financial aid options.
- Lack of credit for military training: Despite their training and experience, veterans may need to complete more coursework than civilian transfer students.
Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices serving our country. Scholarships help make education attainable for them by filling financial gaps.
Main Sources of Scholarships for Veterans
Many organizations provide scholarships and financial assistance specifically for military veterans pursuing higher education. The main sources are:
Federal Government Scholarships
- Post-9/11 GI Bill: Provides tuition assistance, housing stipends, and book allowances for eligible veterans who served on active duty after September 2001.
- Montgomery GI Bill: Offers education benefits for veterans who enlisted and contributed some of their paychecks to fund the program.
- Yellow Ribbon Program: Allows veterans to attend higher-cost private schools by having the Department of Veterans Affairs match tuition contributions from the school.
College and University Scholarships
- Specific veteran scholarships: Many colleges offer at least some scholarships earmarked for student veterans, such as heroes scholarships.
- ROTC scholarships: Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs offer scholarships for veterans entering the program.
- Athletic scholarships: Veterans can qualify for college athletic scholarships by playing sports.
- Financial aid for disabled veterans: Colleges must provide academic adjustments for disabled veterans and may offer financial aid.
Nonprofit and Private Scholarships
- Scholarships from veteran organizations: Groups like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America offer scholarships.
- Corporate scholarships: Businesses like Walmart and Starbucks provide educational grants for veterans.
- Community organization scholarships: Local Rotary Clubs, Optimist Clubs, and other civic groups often support veterans pursuing degrees.
With many options, veterans should thoroughly research which scholarships they qualify for. Having an idea of common eligibility requirements helps focus the scholarship search.
What Are Scholarships for Veterans Based On?
Scholarship providers look for certain criteria when selecting student veteran recipients. Common factors include:
Military Service Details
- Branch served in
- Deployment locations and dates
- Years or era of service
- Discharge status
- Battle honors and military awards
- Disabled veteran status
- Spouse/child of deceased veteran status
Academic Performance and Potential
- High school and prior college GPAs
- SAT/ACT test scores
- Acceptance into an academic program
- Essays demonstrating motivation and goals
- Low income levels
- High college costs
- Lack of GI Bill benefits
- Insufficient financial aid awards
- Leadership skills
- Community involvement
- Recommendations from commanding officers and teachers
- Extracurricular activities
By understanding eligibility qualifications, applicants can highlight the relevant experiences on their applications.
Top Scholarships for Veterans
Many scholarships provide substantial financial assistance to student veterans. Here are some of the most generous options to consider pursuing:
Provider: Pat Tillman Foundation
Amount: Up to $20,000
Eligibility: Veterans and active-duty military of all branches
Details: Covers education costs and living expenses; requires demonstrated leadership and community service
Provider: Freedom Alliance
Amount: Up to $40,000 over four years
Eligibility: Children of military members killed or disabled in service
Details: Can be used at four-year colleges and vocational programs; renewable annually
Provider: Fisher House Foundation
Amount: Full tuition, fees, room, and board
Eligibility: Children of fallen or disabled military members
Details: Must attend one of the Military College of South Carolina schools
Provider: Commissaries worldwide
Amount: $2,000 per recipient
Eligibility: Children of active duty, reserve, retired, or deceased service members
Details: Awarded annually based on essay submission; not based on financial need
Provider: Student Veterans of America
Amount: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: Student veterans with 3.0+ GPAs who’ve exhausted GI Bill benefits
Details: Awarded twice per year; requires letters of recommendation
This selection illustrates the wide range of scholarship amounts, eligibility specifications, and provider organizations available to veterans. With many options, finding several viable scholarships is possible.
How to Find Scholarships for Veterans
Searching for scholarships using the right techniques and resources increases the chances of identifying several promising opportunities. Here are some tips:
- Start early: Give yourself plenty of time to find and apply for scholarships. Begin looking a year before enrolling if possible.
- Ask campus Veteran Resource Centers: Colleges with Veteran Resource Centers have staff familiar with local and national scholarship options.
- Check scholarship databases: Use aggregator tools like Fastweb and Scholarships.com that match applicants with scholarships.
- Look for niche scholarships: Search for scholarships targeted at your military branch, career interests, affiliations, and demographic traits.
- Research provider organizations: Check the websites of military associations, community groups, corporations, and nonprofits for opportunities.
- Follow up on leads: Ask scholarship administrators for information on other options you may qualify for.
With diligent searching, veterans can uncover multiple scholarships to apply for that suit their backgrounds and college plans.
How to Improve Your Scholarship Application
Applying for scholarships takes time and effort. Follow these tips to submit stronger applications:
Start with the Right Scholarships
- Find awards with eligibility criteria you meet.
- Prioritize renewable scholarships.
- Focus on reputable providers like colleges and national nonprofits.
Craft a Compelling Personal Statement
- Explain how military service shaped your goals and interests.
- Emphasize extracurriculars and volunteer work demonstrating your values.
- Be specific about career plans and how you will use your education.
Gather Required Documents
- Request transcripts and letters of recommendation early.
- Include discharge papers documenting veteran status.
- Provide evidence of financial need.
Follow Instructions Carefully
- Adhere to word limits and formatting guidelines.
- Submit all required essay questions and forms.
- Send applications to the specified contact address.
With attention to detail and a personalized statement, veterans can make their applications stand out.
Accepting a Scholarship: Next Steps
Receiving a scholarship award letter is exciting. Make sure you take these steps to formalize the process:
- Contact the scholarship provider: Confirm you accept the award and request guidance on next steps.
- Complete additional forms: Some programs require signed agreements from recipients acknowledging the scholarship terms.
- Send thank you notes: Express your appreciation for the scholarship to build relationships with groups supporting your education.
- Claim the award through your school: Inform your college’s financial aid office about any outside scholarships you receive.
- Report other scholarships: Disclose all financial aid to avoid issues with scholarships exceeding school costs.
- Reapply annually: Find out deadlines and processes for renewing multi-year scholarships.
With some scholarships, remaining in good standing requires maintaining a minimum GPA. Be sure to keep up your academic performance levels throughout your studies.
Take Advantage of Scholarship Opportunities
The journey from military to civilian life comes with major changes. Scholarships make the college transition more attainable by reducing the financial barriers veterans face. With thousands of programs supporting veterans like you, finding ways to fund your education is possible. Conduct thorough scholarship searches, perfect your applications, and reduce the costs of earning your degree.
Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for Veterans
Are all scholarships for veterans need-based?
No, while some providers consider financial need, many also award scholarships based on academic merit, specific career goals, leadership potential, and community involvement. High-achieving veterans have opportunities even without demonstrated financial need.
What are some common essay topics?
Scholarship essays often focus on your motivations for attending college, how military service shaped your growth, specific examples of perseverance in the face of challenges, future career and service goals, and ways you will use your education to contribute to society.
Should I only apply directly through providers?
Besides applying directly, also create profiles on aggregator sites like Fastweb so matching scholarship programs can contact you. You can exponentially increase your eligible opportunities.
How competitive are veteran scholarships?
Competition varies substantially depending on the award, from awards selecting just one top candidate to those accepting all eligible applicants. Smaller local scholarships often receive fewer applicants. With many options to apply to, veterans can find awards with reasonable chances.
Can I use scholarships on top of GI Bill benefits?
Yes, you can “stack” multiple forms of financial aid, including Pell Grants. Report all aid you receive to avoid exceeding school costs. Scholarships help cover additional expenses beyond what GI Bill benefits provide for.